Welcome to the Land of Sea-To-Sky
Designed & Carved by Nathan Gilles
The unique and beautiful setting of the Tribal lands at the head of Sequim Bay inspired this 42.5-foot tall, 400-year old Western Red Cedar totem pole. The edge of the salt water quickly transitions into the lower foothills, and then up into the wilderness of the Olympic Mountain range. The creatures on the pole include animals that hold significance to the S’Klallam people.
At the base is an Orca that represents life in the Salish Sea. The Orca is an apex species and iconic to our region. He is parting the waves and water with his power. There are many S’Klallam stories about the Orca, its significance to the ancient ways, and its interactions with the S’Klallam people.
The next figure up the pole is a Wolf Person with the face of a human and the ears of a wolf. He is holding onto the Orca with his face in between the flukes of the Orca’s tail and his arms and legs grasping the Orca’s body. This combination of imagery hints at an honoring of the S’Klallam wolf society that in historic times was a central cultural practice. The S’Klallam people honor the Wolf, believing themselves to be descended from a family of wolves. The Wolf Person represents an ancient time when the animals were people. The Wolf figure pays homage to the ecology of the past, when the wolf was a prevalent and important apex species on the Olympic Peninsula.
The Orca and Wolf are said to be able to shift back and forth from land to sea. Salish black dugout canoes often reflect this relationship, with their indication of a wolf head at the bow, with the body and tail of an Orca at the stern. This depiction of the relationship between wolf, killer whale, and human is meant to both honor S’Klallam cultural history and lean toward a contemporary representation of the ecological setting in which the 7 Cedars Hotel is located.
Next, the Black Bear bites and grasps a spawning Chum Salmon. The bear and salmon are very significant in the local ecosystem. Bears are commonly seen as symbols of strength, protection, and wisdom. The bear also is a nod to Tribal Chairman W. Ron Allen, whose spirit animal is the bear, and who has been instrumental to the progress made by the Tribe over the past 40 years.
The Salmon of the Northwest coast have given sustenance to the ancient people, and continue to provide for the contemporary people of the coast. This is a spawning Chum Salmon with its decaying flesh, backbone, and the small teeth that Chum Salmon develop during their spawning transition. The salmon holds a place of tremendous importance to the Tribe, but this figure honors the Tribe’s great dedication to environmental stewardship, including the rehabilitation of creeks and rivers in the area which has brought dwindling salmon populations back to the Peninsula.
The Mountain Goat and Olympic Marmot represent the highlands of the Olympic Mountains. The Mountain Goat is holding onto a rock, and a Marmot Person is emerging out of his burrow. Both are important creatures of the highland mountain ecology. The Mountain Goat represents wealth, as the most valued blankets and textiles of historic times had mountain goat wool woven into them. Mountain Goat wool and horns where a rare and prized possession because of the hardship it took to acquire them. The horns were carved into heirloom spoons, as well as bracelets used in shows of ceremonial status.
The round, notched pole is a length of wealth rings, symbolizing the anticipated success of 7 Cedars Hotel.
Atop the totem, a Thunderbird is perched on high. The Thunderbird represents the sky world. It is said that Thunderbirds live on specific peaks high in the mountains and their spirits are manifest there. In one S’Klallam story, the Thunderbird taught the S’Klallam how to whale and provided the first weapons to the first people and warriors of old. The Thunderbird joined Wolf and Orca in Wolf Society rituals.